Skip to content

Margaret Cowgill Remembered



by Ashley Lenz

Margaret Cowgill, known by many in the Saddlebred world as Margaret Ruth, passed away April 8 in Kansas City, Mo.

Daughter of famed equitation pioneer, Annie Lawson Cowgill, Margaret was known for her extraordinary ability to truly connect with the spirit of the horses she trained, a trait so few trainers possess. She dedicated her life to the American Saddlebred, producing some the best horse and rider combinations of this generation. Margaret grew up in Milan, Mo., where her mother, Annie, ran a summer horsemanship camp attended by students from all over the world. Annie, along with Helen Crabtree, propelled saddle seat equitation to the art form it is today. Margaret began instructing at the camp as a teenager. Some of the great riders and instructors of today who were students of the Cowgill summer riding camp include Gayle Lampe, Lillian Shively, Randy Stuart Wightman, Janet Green and Stacy Stackhouse, just to name a few. Helen Crabtree sent many of her riders to the Cowgills every summer to learn from Annie and Margaret. Margaret looked up to her mother in so many ways and Annie was without a doubt the biggest influence on her life.

Lillian Shively said, "Margaret was the love of Annie’s life."

Margaret held an AA degree from Stephens College in Columbia where she was very active in the riding program; the department that was headed by her mother for 12 years. Margaret then went on to get a BA degree from the University of Missouri and worked outside of the horse business for a few years until she was offered a job teaching equitation by Don Brockman in Neenah, Wis., who at the time had one of the premier show barns in the country.

Those who knew Margaret best would undoubtedly say that no one could make them laugh like she did. She had a very intelligent dry sense of humor that made her storytelling abilities unrivaled by anyone. Her timing was impeccable, her laughter contagious and her heart bigger than she herself. She let nothing hold her back in life, not even her battle with crippling polio she suffered as a child. Her story was inspirational to all who knew her and all who saw her ride. She could make a horse do what nearly anyone with perfectly functional legs could not, simply by feeling and thinking. Her connection with the horses she trained and rode was undeniable, many times taking on "problem horses" or those deemed "un-trainable" and making them into stars. The horses she trained were always happy—happy to be with her and happy to be understood.

Each rider knows throughout their riding career there is always one horse that stands above the rest, one horse that will always hold the most special place in her heart. The Beneficiary was that to Margaret. "Bene" (Benny) as he was affectionately known by Margaret, was her special horse. He was purchased from Paul Priebe and went on to be one of the most talked about five-gaited horses in the Midwest in the early to mid ‘80s. Bene was deemed too "hot" for a ladies horse at the time, but that was what Margaret loved about him. "He was all go forward," she said many times about him. "You never had to ask him for more. As soon as he felt you sit down in the saddle, it was go." Among the few notable wins Margaret had on Bene were five-gaited classes at Midwest and the American Royal. The dynamic duo even beat out the rarely defeated team of Mary Gaylord and Santana Lass at the Tulsa Charity Horse Show on April 30, 1986. Bene lived out his life with Margaret on her farm in Willard, Mo. She always said that the day Bene had to be put down was one of the saddest days of her life.

Undoubtedly the most important aspect of Margaret’s life was the horses she was so happy to train and their riders. Some of Margaret’s most notable riders include Mary Knauer Miller, Kathy Vance, Cindy Vance, Ashley Lenz, Kiley Lawrence, Amber Mitchell, Carrie Wooten McLiney, Andrea Perry, Marjorie Townsend, Edward Townsend, Joey Newman, Kate Johnson, Emily Shivers, Debi Ball, Sherry Osbourne, Hillary Lundman, Nancy Amiral and Melissa Kidd, just to name a few.

Margaret trained horses not with an iron fist, but with an understanding. Her ability to truly get inside their head was remarkable and the results of her talents were quite evident. Horses like Sporty Gillen, Touchdown, Samtana, Tashonka Witko, Aquarian Ace, Time Bandit, Oklahoma Dark Miss, Shamrock’s Promenading Lady, Thomas Gordon, Lily Bart, Caramac’s Casanova, Absolute Courage, Commanders Return, S.S. Bravissimo, My Precious Tears, B.B. Brown, Shamrocks Misty Chief and Return Requested were products of Margaret Cowgill and her Joan Stables.

More Stories

  • Dayton Horse Show Update

    After speculation that 2017 would be the final Dayton Horse Show, officials have announced that there would indeed be a 2018 show. Held at the historic Montgomery County Fairgrounds, Dayton, Ohio for many years, the does have to change locations for its 151st edition due to the Fairgrounds being sold. Read More
  • Obituary - Dr. Ronald A. Hendricks

    Dr. Ronald A. Hendricks, age 66 of Lenoir City, formerly of Clinton, passed away on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 from complications following a stroke in November. Ronnie had degrees in engineering and dentistry. He was a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Memphis, Memphis State and Cleveland State Community College... Read More
  • Did You Know?

    Our interactive website offers a variety of useful and unique tools for our readers. We aim to help our readers learn to navigate our new website, as well as gain a firm understanding of all the comprehensive features that it offers. Check in weekly with our Did You Know news series, as we show you the ins and outs of www.saddlehorsereport.com. Read More
  • ASHA Announces Partnership with US Equestrian in the new USEF Competition Lite Program

    ASHA is pleased to announce the partnership between United States Equestrian Federation (US Equestrian) and ASHA to offer the new USEF Competition Lite category... Read More
  • Schedule Set For 33rd Annual Wisconsin Limited Breeders Stallion Auction

    The 33rd annual Wisconsin Limited Breeders Stallion Service Auction will be held Sunday, January 7, 2018 at the Thunder Bay Restaurant in Milwaukee Wisc. The event begins at 11:00 AM with a buffet brunch followed by the annual meeting at 12:30 PM. The live stallion service auction will begin at 1:00 PM, featuring the nation's top producing stallions... Read More
  • Beamer Helps Rescue Horses from Lilac Fire

    Barbara Beamer joined scores of neighbors, friends, volunteers and community members to help transport and shelter horses and pets displaced in the Lilac Fire which decimated the San Luis Rey Training Center and is still burning in San Diego County. Read More
  • Latest Issue Dec 11 17

    Read More
  • Morgan Weanling Gala 2018

    Plans are underway for the 10th edition of the Morgan Weanling Gala to be held in 2018. In the years since the Morgan Weanling Gala (MWG) was launched, it has become a much-anticipated event each year. The program individually promotes each of the Nominated Stallions on both the MWG Facebook Page and website... Read More
  • Selection Trials at William Woods University

    After impressive showings at the U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup Team Trials, 12 riders were chosen to represent the United States at the 2018 Saddle Seat World Cup. Thirty-two aspiring athletes from 18 states tried out at William Woods University on Saturday... Read More
  • American Saddlebreds to Light Up Kannapolis Parade of Lights This Weekend

    The Carolinas American Saddlebred parade unit will be leading this year’s Kannapolis Parade of Lights Grand Marshal, Mrs. Martha Earnhardt during the event on Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 6 PM at the intersection of Main St. and Dale Earnhardt Blvd in Kannapolis, NC. Read More